Mem­o­ries of be­ing a pa­per­boy in­clude straw­berry-scented ink

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In 1962, it wasn’t ex­actly good form to smell like a straw­berry. At least that was the thought process of 13-year-old Don McClain at the time.

Hey, he had girls to FRnVLGHU. 0FClDLn fiJured smelling like a straw­berry might ham­per what­ever chances a young man cruis­ing around Ard­s­ley on a bi­cy­cle had to im­press the ladies.

Then there were his bud­dies. Surely they would give him the rasp­ber­ries when they got a whiff of the straw­berry on him. McClain shut­tered to think of the teas­ing he might en­dure.

And it was all thanks to his pa­per route. Yep, the Glen­side News was caus­ing a good bit of con­ster­na­tion for the pa­per­boy and his po­ten­tial so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ap­par­ently, the news­pa­per was ex­per­i­ment­ing with scented ink in those days. McClain thinks it was around Valen­tine’s Day of 1962, and the weekly Glen­side News had been printed with straw­ber­ryscented ink. It was so pun­gent, though, that the smell got into the can­vas bags that the kids used in those days to throw over their shoul­ders or the han­dle­bars of the bi­cy­cles to de­liver the pa­pers. And it wouldn’t go away.

“My hands smelled like straw­ber­ries, the bag smelled like straw­ber­ries,” said McClain. “When you’re rid­ing around town, you’re go­ing to bump into some of your bud­dies, or maybe even some girls that you know. And when you’re only 13 or 14, this is crit­i­cal. I didn’t want to smell like a straw­berry.”

McClain’s pa­per route in­cluded 50 or 60 de­liv­er­ies, although he said LW wDVn’W D YHUy HI­fiFLHnW route. Ard­s­ley is ba­si­cally a lot of straight streets and a lot of straight cross streets. The kids that de­liv­ered the daily Bul­letin route would throw pa­pers on Mon­roe Av­enue, Maple Av­enue or Cricket Av­enue. But McClain’s Glen­side News route was scat­tered all over Ard­s­ley.

“It was really an ex­er­cise in ShyVLFDl fiWnHVV IRU D WHHnDJH ERy,” said McClain, who made be­tween $5 and $8 a week, a de­cent amount of money for a teenager in 1962. “When it was all said and done, I was rid­ing my bi­cy­cle around four miles, maybe more, to de­liver all my pa­pers.”

Given that ex­tended amount of time trav­el­ing the neigh­bor­hood, 0FClDLn GLGn’W wDnW WR ULVN finGing him­self in any po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tions. So he asked his mother to wash the straw­ber­rysmelling can­vas bag.

And then he asked her to wash it again. And again. And again.

“They were pretty tough can­vas bags. They weren’t some­thing you washed,” said McClain. “But it still smelled like straw­ber­ries, and at some point, my mom wouldn’t wash it any­more be­cause she was afraid it would make our clothes smell like straw­ber­ries.”

That’s some pretty doggone strong-smelling ink right there.

McClain, an Abing­ton grad but now a Doylestown res­i­dent, shared that de­light­ful story with me at a re­cent Abing­ton Ed­u­ca­tional Foun­da­tion strate­gic plan­ning ses­sion at which we were both par­tic­i­pants. Not only is it a won­der­ful story of a more in­no­cent time in our lives, but an­other as­pect in­ter­ested me as well: With 37 years in the news­room, I had never heard of scented ink be­ing used in the print­ing of a news­pa­per.

So I went right to the main sources to get the skinny on the straw­berry smell: Fred Behringer was the long­time ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of Mont­gomery News­pa­pers from 1957 un­til his re­tire­ment in 2001; and Bill Strasburg, who bought the Am­bler Gazette in 1952, the Pub­lic Spirit in Hat­boro/Hor­sham in 1954 and the Times Chron­i­cle and Glen­side News in 1959 and formed what even­tu­ally would be known as Mont­gomery Me­dia, which he VRlG Ln 1989. BRWh FRn­fiUPHG WhDW yes, the news­pa­per did ex­per­i­ment with scented ink in the early 1960s.

“The smell was no­tice­able and the re­ac­tion was over­whelm­ingly neg­a­tive,” said Behringer, con­fiUPLnJ 0FClDLn’V UHFRl­lHFWLRn.

“Fred al­ways has a nice way of putting it,” said Strasburg. “I bought the scented ink from an ink dealer in Philadel­phia. It had been scented with straw­ber­ries. The more I think about it, the more I think it was for a straw­berry fes­ti­val.”

Strasburg said that ad­ver­tis­ers were ex­per­i­ment­ing with di­rect mar­ket­ing at the time, and the straw­berry-scented ink was one of those ex­per­i­ments.

“Peo­ple talked about how ter­ri­ble it was, but ev­ery­body talked about it,” said Strasburg. “There were a lot of com­plaints. It wasn’t just the Glen­side News, it was in all of the Mont­gomery News­pa­pers.”

Strasburg said the ink “ex­per­i­ment” was con­ducted off and on over the course of about a year. But it be­came a bur­den in the press­room dur­ing print­ing and the news­pa­pers dropped the scented-ink idea.

“,W wDV WRR GLI­fiFulW WR PD­nage and it didn’t go very well,” said Strasburg. “But the straw­berry thing is some­thing peo­ple re­mem­ber. It turned out to be ef­fec­tive in the sense that they re­mem­bered it.”

That they did. It left such an im­pres­sion on Don McClain that he shared his story with me 50 years later in the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing at Abing­ton School District. Mr. Strasburg’s ad­ver­tis­ers cer­tainly couldn’t have imag­ined get­ting a 50-year re­turn on the ini­tial in­vest­ment in straw­berry-scented ink. The fact that no­body at this junc­ture can re­mem­ber what ad­ver­tis­ers used WhH VPHlly LnN LV WhH Rnly fly Ln that inkwell.

“You’re not go­ing to sit there in your fa­vorite chair and read the lo­cal news with the smell of straw­ber­ries in your face,” said McClain, even though his ver­sion of the story – Valen­tine’s Day vs. straw­berry fes­ti­val – dif­fers a lit­tle from Strasburg’s ver­sion.

“I like my story bet­ter,” said McClain. “It’s just a fun me­mory.”

Mike Morsch is ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of Mont­gomery Me­dia and au­thor of the book, “Danc­ing in My Un­der­wear: The Sound­track of My Life.” He can be reached by call­ing 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at msquared35@ya­hoo.com. This col­umn can also be found at www.mont­gomerynews.com.

Outta Left­field Mike Morsch

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